Originally posted on WSU Football Blog  |  Last updated 9/10/13
Smiles everyone, smiles! Happy Tuesday Cougs.  Our new friend Burning Snowmans has dropped in another guest post (but at the rate we're going here, might be time to drop the whole "guest" post thing?).  Take it away Snowmans.... Are you smiling? I know you are. You’ve had that little grin on your face ever since Damante Horton came down with that interception Saturday night. Bad day at work? Doesn’t matter, WSU beat USC. Have to walk the dog AND take out the garbage tonight? No worries honey, I’d be happy to. WSU beat USC in the Coliseum.  I’m not sure we can quantify how big this win is for Washington State Cougar Football. And its not because of how exceptionally well WSU played, because they didn’t. As Longball pointed out in the podcast, the Cougs won this game while making a lot of mistakes. No, this game sits on a turning point in the mentality of how the Pac 12 sees both Washington State and USC. A little history if you’ve been trying to wipe the last “x” number of years out of your brain like I have: Last WSU conference win against a team not named the fuskies: 2011 Arizona State Sun Devils Last WSU BCS road win: 2011 Colorado Buffaloes Last WSU conference road win against a Pac 10 team: 2010 Oregon State Before that and excluding Apple Cups in conference play, on the road? 2006 at UCLA. Ladies and gentlefolk, that is futility away from the friendly confines of God’s country. Because of that, this victory isn’t about how they won it, but more THAT they won it. It’s almost impossible not to make the correlation beck to Dick Bennett sweeping the USC/UCLA basketball series in 2003/04. It’s a tone setter for the rest of the season and the identity of the coach and team.   Now that being said, this was not a victory over a good football team. USC on offense right now is an absolute, well.... The blokes they have “throwing the football” are about as bad as you will see in the Pac 12, or at least played that way Saturday night. There were bright spots for them running the football and on the defensive side, but until they find a solution at QB its gonna be a sinking ship. However, that shouldn’t detour you from jumping on the WSU defense bandwagon... The Hair Raid, or Polynesian Posse as Huddy and some Cougfan posters have dubbed it, is probably the strongest WSU defense since Mkristo Bruce roamed the turf in Pullman.  Mike Breske took quite a rag-tag bunch and has turned that ship around quickly. Probably the 2nd biggest question mark of this year (behind the offensive offensive line from last year) was the secondary; with the big play of Horton, Taylor Taliulu, Deone Bucannon, and young gun Daquawn Brown, that section went from a huge question mark to a source of fire and passion. But that’s a lot of praise, let's get to some analysis and break this thing down. Clearly the most controversial topic in Cougar nation right now is Connor Halliday.  GUNSLINGER! Having 600% more turnovers than touchdowns will lead to you becoming a hot topic. So I made up a completely arbitrary stat to keep track of while re-watching the game. I was curious to see what happened when Connor was put under pressure, either with pressure up the middle or rollouts outside the pocket. I only tracked passes/attempts, sacks were not part of the equation. The big statement everyone is making basically boils down to: “If Halliday has time and isn’t pressured he's great, if he gets forced to make a decision he turns the ball over”.  So by the time the game ended my scribbles gave me something that looked like this: FIRST HALF: First Drive: 1 attempt under pressure, 1 completion Second Drive: 1 rollout attempt, 1 completion, 4 pressure attempts, 1 drop, 1 pick, no completions Third Drive: 2 pressure attempts, 1 completion, 1 fumble Fourth Drive: 1 rollout, no completions, 2 pressures, 1 completion Fifth Drive: 1 pressure, 1 pick Sixth Drive: 1 pressure, 1 completion SECOND HALF: Seventh Drive: no pressure Eight Drive: no pressure Ninth Drive: no pressure Tenth Drive: 1 pressure, 1 drop Eleventh Drive: no pressure Now before you all jump over me, let me clarify again. I only tracked passes that left Halliday's hand on pressure situations that I determined. That means if he tucked and ran or accepted a sack it was not included. Don’t take this to signify there was no pressure applied in the second half, believe me there was. But there was clearly a change in how Halliday responded to it. Instead of trying to force the ball with a Trojan draped around his legs, in the second half he accepted the sack. Instead of forcing a pass into a tight area while being pushed backwards, he found a check down (unfortunately that pass was dropped). Now he made a few costly almost errors without any pressure put on him, but I’m conveniently pushing that outside this discussion.  In the first 5 series, all Halliday's incompletions happened in pressure situations (he was 12/19), and there were many times the offense motored right along. In the next 4 series no mistakes were made by being under pressure, but the ball didn’t move up or down the field very much at all. This says 1 of 2 things to me: either the only way for this offense to produce points and run smoothly is for the QB to make big plays while being under pressure (he made a lot of big plays while not being under pressure I might add), or that the offense as a whole did not play well the second half. And I have to say, outside of the Dom Williams catch and run there wasn’t much to be excited about on that side of the ball. So heres my final takeaway on this offense and especially Halliday. I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet.  Clearly he made some adjustments at halftime to limit turnovers. Should he have done that before the Auburn game? Probably. But it looks like he's doing that now. The offense in general in the second half stunk.  Gabe Marks had a first down catch that he backed out of and lost yardage, and after a false start that cost the Cougs big time. There were a few dropped passes, the O-line was dominated by the Sherman tanks SC has lining up on D, and whenever a nice play would erupt (Kristoff’s nice catch and run for instance), that yellow flag seemed to come out to bite them. For this team to succeed in the rest of the Pac 12, those are areas that will have to be cleaned up and fixed. Luckily for us Southern Utah and Idaho are perfectly placed to get the offense rolling in the right direction again. And yet the Cougs still won. Hehehe, keep smiling, I know I am.  All for now.  Thanks again Burning, and of course, GO COUGS!
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